(Bloomberg) -- Marine Le Pen said French President Emmanuel Macron’s accusations that the agendas of the far right National Rally and leftist alliance could lead to “civil war” indicate that he knows he’s going to lose the upcoming legislative vote that begins on Sunday. 

“He always campaigned saying ‘it’s me or chaos’,” Le Pen said on RTL radio Tuesday morning. “It’s a very weak argument that shows that he thinks he’s lost this election.”

Macron on Monday said that the way the far-right and far-left blocs pit people against each other could lead to a dangerous domestic situation. 

The far-right National Rally’s plan to deal with crime and insecurity “refers to people of a religion or an origin — it divides and it leads to civil war,” Macron said in an interview with a Génération Do It Yourself podcast. The far-left France Unbowed that’s part of a hastily cobbled alliance is also peddling sectarian politics that would provoke similar hostilities, he said. 

  • Sign up for the Paris Edition newsletter for special coverage throughout the French election.

The increasingly strident comments from Macron’s camp reflect a last-ditch attempt to woo voters as his centrist party trails behind the National Rally and the leftist New Popular Front in the polls with less than a week before the first round of voting. One pollster even suggested the far-right party could clinch an absolute majority in the National Assembly, though France’s two-round voting system makes forecasting tricky. 

In the days after Macron’s surprise call for an election to renew the National Assembly two weeks ago, his allies have taken to the air waves to speak of the dangers of the far right or the far left coming into power. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said a government by Le Pen’s National Rally would harm “civil peace,” without providing any evidence to support his claim. He has also warned that both the far-right and the left would be disastrous for the economy. 

Opposition parties have accused Macron and his allies of fear mongering to spook voters. The head of the French Unbowed party, Jean-Luc Melenchon, on Monday rejected Macron’s “civil war” comment, saying it’s the president who tends to divide the French.

“He’s always around when it comes to setting fires,” he said, alluding to recent political tensions in France’s overseas territory of New Caledonia.

Comments from Macron’s party have done little to halt the rise of the National Rally and the alliance of the left in the polls. Le Pen’s party is forecast to win the first round of the French legislative election with 35.4%, according to Bloomberg’s poll of polls on Tuesday, up 0.7 point. The New Popular Front would be second with 28.1%, with Macron’s Renaissance party and its allies still lagging in third place with 20.6%.

Investors dumped French assets in the days after Macron’s call for the vote, fretting over how a new government could further stretch the country’s budget deficit. The turmoil pushed the risk premium on French bonds versus German ones to the highest since 2012 last week, though that spread narrowed slightly on Monday. 

The first round of the election is set for June 30, with the second round slated for July 7. Macron, who called for the vote after his party was crushed in the European Parliament election, seemed to acknowledge in the podcast that his group may face a loss in the ballot.

National Rally leader Jordan Bardella has been working to assuage voters that he can be trusted overseeing the country’s economy. 

On Monday, he outlined the party’s plan to pay for a reduction in sales tax on energy and fuel — – which would cost €7 billion ($7.5 billion) in 2024 – by cutting France’s contribution to the EU budget, closing tax advantages for shipping firms and boosting levies on the profits of energy companies.

Get Bloomberg’s coverage of the French election in your inbox by signing up to our newsletter, The Paris Edition. Terminal users can sign up here. If you’re reading this online, this is the link you need.

The National Rally “is the only movement to implement immediately and reasonably the expectations of French people. In three words: we are ready,” he said. “We aim to bring the country back to budgetary reason.” 

Most pollsters predict that the National Rally will form the largest group in the National Assembly but fall short of the 289 seats needed for an absolute majority. The latest survey by Odoxa predicts the party will get between 250 to 300 seats. 

This scenario — where National Rally wins the most seats in the legislature but falls short of an absolute majority — would likely inflict gridlock on the lower house, meaning any ambitious legislation or reform would be difficult to pass.

Le Pen said on Tuesday that such an outcome would mean the only option open to Macron would be to resign as he cannot call fresh elections for another year and a government reshuffle wouldn’t resolve the impasse.

“If there is no absolute majority in the National Assembly and therefore a blockage of the fundamental institution that votes laws, the constitution doesn’t allow for other possibilities than resignation,” Le Pen said. “I don’t think it will happen because I think we’ll have an absolute majority.”

Macron justified his call for a vote, saying there was a lot of seething anger in France and that he wanted the country’s people to have “a voice.” 

“It will be nobody’s fault the evening of the second round; it will be the responsibility of the French people,” he said. “For me, it’s not a bet, it’s confidence” in the voters, he added.

--With assistance from James Regan.

(Updates with Bloomberg’s poll of polls in the ninth paragraph. An earlier version corrected the time frame for the National Rally’s projected cost estimate.)

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.